When it comes to queer history, some facts are better known than others. In light of the City of Vancouver's Year of the Queer, we dug through the Georgia Straight's archives to find some lesser-known parts of Vancouver’s LGBT history—the lost clubs, forgotten bookstores, and shocking events.
Short-lived lesbian nightlife
In a scene dominated by gay men’s clubs, the Quadra at 1055 Homer Street was Vancouver’s first lesbian-owned, lesbian-run bar. It opened in July 1979 and hosted the Quadra Players—male drag shows in the days before “drag kings”. But co-owners Suzan Krieger and Heather Farquahar couldn’t get the lease renewed when an allegedly homophobic bank agent came for inspection. The Quadra shuttered 18 months after opening.
Fire and fury
Vancouver saw at least two queer historical sites go up in flames between 1980 and 1992. In 1980, the Women’s Bookstore and Centre at 804 Richards Street (which hosted weekly lesbian nights) was destroyed by an arsonist, while the Garden Baths sauna at 1233 Hornby Street burned down from unknown causes around 1992. Little Sister’s previous premises at 1221 Thurlow Street (at Davie Street) also faced two bombings in 1987 and 1988, but nobody was hurt in either incident.
All booked out
Little Sister’s may be the most famous queer book shop, but it wasn’t Vancouver’s only one. The Book Mantel was Vancouver’s eastside bookstore at 1002 Commercial Drive, more of a coffee bar and lesbian hang-out spot than a store. Cynthia Brooke and Bonnie Murray bought Book Mantel and moved it to Commercial around 1988, though it’s unclear when it shut down.
Food for thought
Nightclubs weren’t the only gathering spots. The August lived from 1968 to 1972 at 818 Richards Street (which later became the Shaggy Horse) as an after-hours hangout where drunk gays ate breakfast at 5 a.m., and did dinner service several nights a week. Doll and Penny’s at 1167 Davie Street served a similar niche as a diner, serving late-night nibbles from 1984 to 1999. Both also had regular performers, including drag queens, for dinner and a show.
Dying to entertain you
On Halloween 1970, a veteran drag queen had a heart attack while performing onstage at The August. Writer Kevin Dale McKeown reflected upon the tragedy in his QQ writes…Page 69 column in the Straight’s November 4-11, 1970, edition, noting that Lady Joanna Maria Montez—Maria to many—“died, while doing what she loved best, entertaining.”